Royal Never Give Up takes home MSI title with style

Jian "Uzi" Zi-Hao raises his fist in the air before Royal Never Give Up's match against Kingzone DragonX at the Mid-Season Invitational in Paris. Provided by Riot Games

The 2018 Mid-Season Invitational hit its high mark early Sunday morning in Paris as South Korea's League of Legends team Kingzone DragonX took on China's Royal Never Give Up in an explosive best-of-five series for the coveted championship title. When all was said and done, there was only one team left standing in the arena: the new MSI champions, Royal Never Give Up.

It was a series that played out according to expectations yet managed to be anything but formulaic at the same time. Coming into the series, all eyes were on one man: RNG's ADC, Jian "Uzi" Zi-Hao. The pregame segments talked up the ace ADC as a potential best player in the world -- and the series itself proved the talk certainly was warranted. Each game came down to whether Kingzone could contain Uzi's impact or turn RNG's strengths back around on the team -- more often than not, the South Korean squad was unsuccessful.

The first three games saw Kingzone take a risky gamble as it let Ezreal through the ban phase, which RNG happily snatched up for Uzi. Kingzone's belief that Kim "PraY" Jong-in's Caitlyn would be enough to stall Ezreal's massive power spike was proved horrifically wrong during the first game of the series, which saw RNG's tank-stacked lineup cruise to an easy victory against Kingzone's odd assortment of lane-dominant split-pushers.

A quick pivot into a tank of its own -- Kim "Khan" Dong-ha's Cho'Gath, to be precise -- proved to be a functional remedy for Kingzone, especially when combined with a Level 1 game plan that had Uzi start out the game without summoners. Simply evening up the match, however, wasn't enough to stop RNG, which struck back in Game 3 when Kingzone opted to move its tank from the top lane to the mid lane in the form of Gwak "Bdd's" Bo-seong's Sion, a pick that opened the door to a devastating counterpick in the form of Li "Xiaohu" Yuan-Hao's Vladimir.

The fifth game saw Kingzone go all-in and not only ban Ezreal but also bring out the most exciting picks of the tournament. Not only did it opt to once again put Khan on Illaoi -- a pick he used to great effect against EVOS Esports earlier in the tournament -- but it also debuted Bdd's Vel'Koz, a pick that had seen nothing but success earlier in the season in the hands of Kingzone's domestic rivals, Gen. G (formerly known as KSV eSports). Both picks were incredible, but they couldn't stand up to the dual threat of lockdown that Xiaohu's Malzahar brought to the table combined with the unbelievable damage output that Uzi's signature Kai'Sa brought. The lethal combo, when combined with the peeling power of Shi "Ming" Sen-Ming's Janna, was enough to bring the series to a close and bring the Mid-Season Invitational title right back to the region that won it first in 2015, China.

-- James Bates